The Waugh Zone Thursday October 18, 2018

The five things you need to know about politics today

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. That’s the thought uppermost in the minds of many Brexiteer Tories this morning as they wake up to what they see as yet another No10 attempt to con them into backing Theresa May’s ‘vassal state’ Brexit plans. This morning the PM herself has confirmed that she is indeed looking at extending the ‘transition’ period between formally quitting the EU and actually quitting its rules and regulations.

May suggests this will only be a matter of ‘months’ rather than a full year or more suggested by the EU last night. De facto deputy PM David Lidington was on the Today programme trying to calm nerves, saying “a few months” of extra time is “one of the ideas that has come through from the negotiators”. Yet for many Tory MPs all they can see is the prospect of effectively staying in the EU - and actually paying into the EU – for three long years after we are meant to have left next March.

Now it’s true that this idea first emerged at the weekend and was again floated yesterday by the EU’s Michel Barnier. But the lack of pitch-rolling for Brexiteer Tory MPs is astounding. The smartest thing would have been to get a backbencher to raise the idea as a way through the impasse without surrendering to the EU. In fact, some Leavers actually don’t mind the idea of an extended transition because it is at least not an extension of Article 50, which would have delayed ‘exit day’ itself. A fair few Tory ‘Remainers’ may like it too.

However, the backlash last night and this morning is strong. No.10 won’t be too worried by Nadine Dorries again suggesting that David Davis should now be made interim PM. It may be more concerned by Andrea Jenkins telling ITV’s Peston last night “Back in July, myself and 36 colleagues signed a letter that we sent to the Prime Minister setting out our red lines and that was one of them.” And never forget that Steve Baker this week pointed out Brexiteers had already swallowed several unpalatable compromises, on the Brexit bill, on the European Courts - and on what he called “this hideous implementation period”.

The biggest difficulty with for the ‘Brextra Time’ idea is that it is only really sellable to Tory MPs (and to Brexiteers in the Cabinet) if they get something in return. If the EU somehow relents and backs off its own plan for a Northern Irish ‘backstop’, and allows May’s UK-wide ‘temporary customs arrangement’ instead, then all-out rebellion and ministerial resignations could be avoided. The PM could also still weather this storm precisely because no one else has any decent answers that can both satisfy her party and get through Parliament. But amid talk that Davis is on manoeuvres, here’s one straw in the wind. Boris Johnson and Amber Rudd have been spotted chatting like old friends in recent days. I know it sounds far-fetched, but if even old enemies like those two agree its time for change, things really could be up for the PM.

Suspicions that Theresa May is seeking to hoodwink MPs were further fuelled last night as the Government set out its latest plans for the final Commons vote on Brexit. Remember this is meant to be a ‘meaningful’ vote, and MPs thought they had secured that concession earlier this year. But Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab’s letter to the Procedure Committee suggests the first motion on the final deal should be ‘unequivocal’, and not amendable.

This has incensed Labour, which thinks it’s merely a cack-handed attempt to use the Procedure Committee as cover for a clear move to ‘rig’ the vote. Note that Ken Clarke told Newsnight last night: “This is the latest silly tactic, which they won’t get away with. What we can’t have is this ’take-it-or-leave it, this is the best we’ve got, you take this or it’s no deal and chaos. Parliament is going to probably want to give some detailed instructions for the Government and temper its approval with conditions.” The suspicion is whips will use a programme motion to get their unamendable version put to the vote first.

The big question now is whether Tory backbenchers on the Procedure Committee will allow themselves to be used in this way. The committee contains some ‘constitutional Tories’, who are also avid Brexiteers. Peter Bone and Sir Edward Leigh may not like the executive trying to avoid proper accountability. Meanwhile back in the real world, we report today on how the lives of ordinary citizens in the UK have been left in limbo by Brexit, forcing them to put on hold things like house moves, new business start-ups and weddings.

John Bercow’s friends let it be known, again, this week that he intended to step down next summer. Far from being any admission of guilt in the light of this week’s damning report on Westminster’s bullying and harassment, it was a signal that he won’t be budged from the Speaker’s chair and will stick around on his own terms. Ken Clarke told Newsnight he was not in favour of removing Bercow: “We have to have a witch hunt a week in the modern media.”

But Clarke’s conservatism on this topic (or his avidly pro-EU view) isn’t shared by Jeremy Corbyn. Yesterday after PMQs, his spokesman told us: “In relation to the Speaker, any allegations need to be investigated against whoever they are made about.” This matters because Dame Laura Cox’s review explicitly called for ‘historic’ allegations to be looked into under a new complaints procedure. If MPs do indeed endorse that recommendation, Bercow will be facing an investigation into complaints (which he strongly denies) of mistreatment of his staff. Some MPs fear this is such a big issue that reforms won’t be in place before his summer resignation date next year.

Corbyn’s spokesman also slapped down suggestions from some Labour MPs, including Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry, that Bercow had to stay in place to oversee the Parliamentary process of Brexit. “Jeremy’s view is that the issue of Brexit and the issue of bullying and harassment and abuse in Parliament and any workplace are entirely separate. And shouldn’t be confused in any way.” That didn’t stop Thornberry from last night stressing she backed Bercow because of his record on gay rights. This whole issue of Parliamentary abuse won’t go away though. We have a very powerful blog from a former clerk due up this morning.

Watch little Luke Vincent, 5, blow Royal protocol by giving Prince Harry a hug – and then a stroke of his beard.

Cutting council cash is the easiest way for central governments to shift the blame for austerity, but sooner or later the political cost can become just too high. This morning Labour’s Andrew Gwynne hands in to No.10 a ‘Breaking Point’ petition signed by 5,137 councillors from across England and Wales. Nick Forbes, leader of the Local Government Association Labour group, and his two deputies, have blogged for HuffPost on why enough is enough.

Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom is increasingly a force to be reckoned with. While No.10 baulks at the idea of MPs spending billions on repairing Parliament’s crumbling estate, Leadsom is cracking on with the plans. Today sees the publication of the Draft Parliamentary Building (Restoration and Renewal) Bill. When MPs voted in January to support a full programme of works, the PM was in China but her Chief Whip had apparently assured her she had nothing to worry about. Tory and Labour members joined forces and won by 236 to 220.

If you’re reading this on the web, sign-up HERE to get the WaughZone delivered to your inbox.

Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Paul Waugh(, Ned Simons (, Rachel Wearmouth ( and Jasmin Gray (

HuffPost is part of Oath and on 25 May 2018 we will be introducing a new Terms of Service and Privacy Policy which will explain how your data is used and shared by Oath. Learn More.

If you’re reading this on the web, sign-up HERE to get The Waugh Zone delivered to your inbox.


What's Hot